The top three teams in the Big Ten – Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State - posted convincing victories in their NCAA basketball tournament openers Thursday and they should beat tougher foes in third round action later today.
Michigan’s perimeter offense should offset Texas’ size advantage
Michigan, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest region, faces a big challenge in the No. 7 seed Texas Longhorns when they play today at 5:15 pm at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Texas’ game-winning basket in their 87-85 win over Arizona State was not a long-distance three-pointer. It was an offensive put-back by 6’9” sophomore center Cameron Ridley.
Ridley and 6’8” junior forward Jonathan Holmes give the Longhorns a distinctive advantage in interior scoring and rebounding. Together they average 24.3 points and 15.3 rebounds per game.
The Michigan (26-8) offense is built around sophomore guard Nik Stauskas. He averages 17.4 points per game and makes an incredible 45% of his three-point shots.
The Wolverines will need forwards Glenn Robinson III and Jordan Morgan to combine for 20 points and 15 rebounds to supplement Stauskas’ scoring to beat Texas (24-10).
Wisconsin should beat the “win now” Oregon Ducks
Wisconsin (27-7) is known for their methodical offense and defense and they’ll need to slow down the Oregon Ducks (24-9) and win this Saturday game scheduled for 7:45 pm at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Badgers are the No. 2 seed in the West region and have added some offensive firepower to their team this season. They crushed American University, 75-35, in a second round game Thursday as guards Traevon Jackson and Ben Brust scored 18 and 17 points respectively. Forward Sam Dekker added 11 points.
Oregon, the No. 7 seed, has adopted a “win now” mentality that has enabled them to win 9 of their last 10 games. They are an up-tempo team that averages 88 points per game. The Ducks also won decisively on Thursday as they beat BYU, 87-68.
During the season, three Ducks averaged in double digits in scoring. Junior guard Joseph Young averages 18.6 points, senior forward Mike Moser scores 13.3 and senior guard Jason Calliste put up 12.5 points per game.
Wisconsin has the home state advantage tonight and if their leading scorer, junior forward Frank Kaminsky, starts scoring at will, then the Ducks will end up third round losers.
Michigan State should beat a disciplined Harvard
It is an interesting way to get reacquainted. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and Spartan fans remember Harvard coach Tommy Amaker when he led the basketball program at the University of Michigan.
Harvard’s success in the Ivy League (13-1 this season) and overall (27-4) can be attributed to Amaker who rebuilt the Crimson basketball program. Unfortunately, they face an extremely difficult task in trying to beat a talented and deep No. 4 seed in Michigan State.
Michigan State (27-8) is equally dangerous with their inside or outside offense. Their leading scorer is sophomore guard Gary Harris who averages 16.9 points per game. The No. 2 scorer on the team is senior forward Adreian Payne with a 16.7 point average.
Payne showed he can score from anywhere in Thursday’s 97-83 romp over Delaware as he scored a team record of 41 points and made 17 of 17 free throws. It may be a good omen, because Greg Kelser set the previous record of 34 points in 1979. Kelser and Magic Johnson led the Spartans to the NCAA national championship that year.
Harvard will lean on junior swingman Wesley Saunders to lead the offense in scoring. He averages 13.9 points per game.
If the Crimson can slow the game to their pace, they have a chance at beating MSU. The Spartans, however, will use their tournament experience, talent and depth to win the game and move on to the “Sweet 16.”